Nutritional supplements and sport drinks should not be allowed to sponsor sporting events until there is strong evidence supporting claims they are beneficial for health.
Researchers say that the sponsorships could lead to “unwarranted credibility” for these products
Two leading authorities on the promotion of sports for health and wellbeing write in the Journal of Medical Ethics that such sponsorship could mislead the public into thinking these products work well.
Dr Simon Outram and Associate Professor Bob Stewart of the Institute of Sport, Exercise, and Active Living in Melbourne say they accept that nutritional supplements and rehydration drinks don’t compare with the unhealthiness of fast food, tobacco or alcohol.
“Successful sponsorship campaigns remove or minimise any scepticism about the product (a common reaction to advertising),” they write.
“A form of seamless or hidden product association is created whereby such products come to be seen as integral to sport, the sports supplement or sports drink.
“It is for good reason that nutritional supplement and sports drinks companies invest heavily in sports sponsorship.”
The researchers say the issue has already prompted some degree of disquiet among sporting authorities about the perception that they might be seen to be endorsing nutritional supplements and sports drinks.
The Australian Institute of Sports has voiced concerns about this, while the American Dietetic Association, Dieticians of Canada and the American College of Sports Medicine have issued a joint statement which questions the manufacturers’ claims for the effectiveness of these products.
And the World Anti-Doping Agency has highlighted the potential inclusion of undeclared and banned substances in these products as a result of global differences in labelling and manufacture.
“If sport authorities, teams, and sports personalities distanced themselves from supplement and drinks company sponsorship, ways would have to be found to cover the financial gap created,” say the authors.
“Lessons can be learnt from the history of tobacco sponsorship and its gradual restriction, which did not lead to the wholesale collapse of sport.”
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